Monday, April 21, 2014

Amanuensis Monday: The Camp Family Letters* - Josiah Camp, Ready to Paddle His Own Canoe

Giant Steamboats at New Orleans, 1853, painting by Hippolyte Sebron
source:  Wikimedia Common

Josiah Camp, my 3 Great Uncle, left his home in Georgia at the age of 21, heading west for a life of adventure.   This letter was written by Josiah to his brother Thomas Camp and sister-in-law Mary, about midway on his journey.

New Orleans, Saturday, 21st April 1860

My Dear Brother & Sister,

I this morning seat myself to let you know where I am & how I am a getting on.  Well as to health, I never felt better in my life & spirits are good… I have got this far rather better than I expected.  I have had no delay until now, reached this place yesterday morning at 8 o’clock & will not leave until 5 this evening.  I shall reach Jefferson in about one week if good luck…When it comes to changing boats, only 20 or 30 minutes to change in and 2 or 3 hundred passengers & a half a mile to go by omnibus.  You may be assured that it takes all a man can do.  I have got on this far without being left, but I have had to run a half a mile at a time.  Mr. Melton got left at Mobile by being slow & a good many more.  I went aboard a vessel yesterday & … they found me a bed & board.

If anyone should ask you about me, you can tell them I am a getting on finely.  I have not  been drunk nor had a card in my hand since I left, & you all know for yourselves as to what I done before I left Georgia. … If and when I get settled in the West & any [of my friends] ever should come near me, I shall do all in my power for their welfare & happiness.

I have seen a good deal since I saw you, but I cannot begin to describe half, and even if I could, it would hardly be worthwhile as you have a very good idea of the manner in which business is carried on in these large cities.  The streets are full of people and omnibuses, and they don’t poke along, but all go like they were a running a race.  If you were in Marietta & see a person going like they go here, you would be right often asking him what was the matter!  And, if you was to see one load and drive like they do here, you would first look for them to break down & then … to see them killed for you would think the horses were running away all the time.

… I have traveled about 1000 miles since I left you, but my heart is very closely connected with yours.  I often think of the pleasant hours spent with you, and it seemed as though we always got on as smooth as anybody could. … When I left you, I left some of my best friends.  When I get to thinking of some of the friends … of old Georgia and then think that I shall never have the pleasure of seeing some of them anymore, it has a kind of a sad affect upon the heart of one that values a true friend as highly as I do.

I am satisfied that there are places where I can make more [money], & that is the place for me as I have nothing but my labor to depend on.  As a matter or course, a man’s business pays the best where he is apt to be the best satisfied … especially a man of my age & standing.  If it was not [for] … some other things, I don’t know but I would stop in Louisiana this year as there is a man on this boat that says he would pay me well for my services, & he stands in need of someone.  He has a store and a plantation and says he would let me have my choice of places to stay so I am not uneasy about something to do if I have my health.  This man is going out in Texas after a son of his that is sick… He says he would be willing to pay my way out there and back if I would go with him & hire me for the year & pay me from the time we landed at Shreveport.

I want you to write Mother at once & tell her not to be uneasy about me for I think I can paddle my own canoe.  Tell her she need not grieve after me.

… Tell all to write & do the same yourselves & believe me to be [your] good fine friend and brother,

                                                Jos Camp

 Because of his travel in April and May of 1860, Josiah may have been omitted from the 1860 census.  By August, 1860, Josiah was situated in Pittsburg, Texas, from which he wrote more letters back to the family in Georgia.  His adventures were just beginning.

* This letter is a part of the "Camp Family Papers, 1858-1877" which are housed in the Manuscript, Archives, and Rare Book Library (MARBL) of Emory University in Decatur, Georgia.  The letters was transcribed using Transcript freeware.  Some of the spelling, punctuation, and syntax were corrected in this post for ease in reading.  ... is used to indicate portions of the letter which were omitted in the post.  [ ] indicates a word I have inserted for clarity.

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